Unveiling the angiogenic effects of cannabinoids: Enhancers or inhibitors?


by J. Maia, B.M. Fonseca, N. Teixeira, G. Correia-da-Silva


July 16,  2023


Cannabinoids are compounds found in the cannabis sativa plant. Cannabinoids, such as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), have potential therapeutic benefits in various medical conditions. Some can activate the cannabinoid receptors type-1 and -2 (CB1 and CB2), that are part of the endocannabinoid system (ECS), alongside the endocannabinoids and their metabolic enzymes. The ECS regulates physiological and cognitive processes and is a potential therapeutic target for a wide range of health conditions like chronic pain, anxiety, and neurodegenerative diseases. Synthetic cannabinoids, are associated with serious health risks, including addiction, psychosis, and death. Nonetheless, some of these molecules are also being explored for pharmacological applications.

Angiogenesis is the process of forming new blood vessels from existing ones, crucial for growth, repair, and tissue maintenance. Dysregulation of this process is associated with several diseases, including cancer, diabetic retinopathy and reproductive pathologies, such as preeclampsia. Recent data suggests that cannabinoids may affect angiogenesis. Here, we reviewed their impact on pro-angiogenic factors, extracellular matrix enzymes and inhibitors, immune-inflammatory responses, angiogenic pathways and functional assays, focusing on the main compounds for each cannabinoid class: THC and CBD for phytocannabinoids, anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) for endocannabinoids and WIN-55, JWH-133, XLR-11, LYR-7 and LYR-8, for the synthetic cannabinoids.

Despite conflicting reports about the actions of phytocannabinoids and endocannabinoids on angiogenesis, the ability to modulate the angiogenic process is undoubtedly confirmed. This may open a new therapeutical route for angiogenesis-related pathologies. In addition, synthetic cannabinoids present anti-angiogenic actions in several cell models, hinting their potential as anti-angiogenic drugs.

DOI: 10.1016/j.bcp.2023.115686


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